Presidential poll petitions: Military, Police warn protesters as tribunal delivers verdict today

Presidential poll petitions: Military, Police warn protesters as tribunal delivers verdict today

As Nigerians look forward to Wednesday for the delivery of the judgment of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal in Abuja, the military and the police have said they will not condone any unlawful action by troublemakers.

The Director, Defence Information, Brig. Gen. Tukur Gusau, warned those who might be planning to cause violence on that day to discard the idea.

The tribunal, in a statement on Monday, announced it would on Wednesday deliver judgment on the petitions challenging the declaration of Bola Tinubu as the winner of the 2023 presidential election by the Independent National Electoral Commission.

The Chairman of the INEC, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, had on March 1 declared Tinubu the president-elect because his party scored the majority of votes cast in the poll.

The tribunal justices who will deliver the verdict on Wednesday are the Chairman of the tribunal, Justice Haruna Tsammani; Justice Stephen Adah of the Court of Appeal (Asaba Division), Justice Monsurat Bolaji-Yusuf , Court of Appeal (Asaba Division), Justices Moses Ugo (Court of Appeal, Kano) and Abba Mohammed of the Ibadan Division of the Court of Appeal..

In the 2023 poll, the former Lagos State governor polled 8.8 million to defeat the Peoples Democratic Party standard bearer, Atiku Abubakar, who scored 6.9 million, Labour Party candidate, Peter Obi, who polled 6.1 million votes, and 15 other candidates.

However, five of the 18 political parties that participated in the elections turned to the court to contest the declaration by the electoral body.

Leading the charge against Tinubu’s electoral triumph are Atiku and Obi who have asked the tribunal to nullify the ex-Lagos governor’s victory in the February 25 presidential election.

Besides the PDP and the LP, other aggrieved parties included the Action Alliance, Action People’s Party, and the Allied Peoples Movement.

In the course of the tribunal proceedings, the five-member panel headed by Justice Tsammani dismissed the petitions of the AA and the APP.

The dismissal was a sequel to a formal withdrawal of the petitions by the parties.

Atiku in his 66-page petition urged the court to cancel the election and order a fresh poll due to alleged irregularities that marred the exercise in thousands of polling units.

The ex-vice president in his joint petition with the PDP marked: CA/PEPC/05/2023, applied for the withdrawal of the certificate of return that was issued to Tinubu by INEC.

He maintained that the declaration of Tinubu as the winner of the presidential election was “invalid by reason of non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2022.”

Atiku further argued that Tinubu’s election was invalid because of corrupt practices and prayed the court to nullify his election and declare him the winner of the presidential election, having secured the second-highest number of lawful votes cast in the election.

He insisted that the APC candidate did not meet the constitutional threshold and “is constitutionally disabled from contesting for the office of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

However, in a reply he filed through his team of lawyers led by Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, Tinubu questioned the legal competence of the petition.

He described Atiku as a consistent serial loser who had since 1993 crisscrossed different political parties in search of power.

Obi in his petition argued that the election was flawed by irregularities, citing also the alleged non-qualification of Tinubu and his running mate, Kashim Shettima, to contest the election.

He also alleged that Tinubu failed to win a majority of lawful votes and also one-quarter of lawful votes cast in the Federal Capital Territory.

He alleged that the election was conducted in substantial non-compliance with the provision of the law.

On August 1, the panel reserved judgment after the PDP, the LP, and the APM had adopted their final written addresses.

But announcing the judgment day in a statement on Monday, the Chief Registrar, Court of Appeal headquarters, Umar Bangari, stated that the tribunal verdict would be aired live on television stations.

This, he noted, was to promote transparency and openness and for Nigerians to watch the proceeding.

The statement read, “The Court of Appeal wishes to inform the general public that judgment in the following petitions before the Presidential Election Petition Court will be delivered on Wednesday 6th September 2023.

‘’CA/PEPC/03/2023 between Mr. Peter Gregory Obi & Anor vs Independent National Electoral Commission & 3 Ors; CA/PEPC/04/2023 between Allied Peoples Movement vs Independent National Electoral Commission & 4 Ors; CA/PEPC/05/2023 between Abubakar Atiku & Anor vs Independent National Electoral Commission & 2 Ors.

‘’In a bid to promote transparency and openness, these judgments will be televised live by interested television stations for the public to follow.”

He also said only accredited persons, including the counsel and representatives of political parties, would be granted access to the courtroom on the judgment day.

“Access to the court premises will be strictly on accreditation. Only accredited individuals, including counsel and representatives of political parties, will be granted access to the courtroom.

‘’Interested members of the public are advised to watch proceedings from their television sets. We appeal for the maximum cooperation of the general public to ensure a hitch-free exercise, please,” the statement added.

Speaking on the security arrangement made to forestall the likelihood of a breakdown of law and order on the judgment day, Gusau explained that the Guards Brigade and Army Headquarters Garrison in collaboration with other security agencies would not fold their arms and allow anyone to foment trouble.

The DDI said this in response to questions from The PUNCH about the security order that would be implemented to ensure public safety before or on the judgment day.

Asked if the security forces would allow protests by those who might be dissatisfied with the tribunal verdict, Gusau said, “We have been maintaining peace and security in collaboration with other security agencies across the country.

‘’In Abuja, we have the Guards Brigade and the Army Headquarters Garrison in conjunction with other security agencies that have been on the ground to provide security in the FCT.

“We will continue to do our own work, and if anybody wants to perpetrate any mayhem, we cannot fold our arms and be looking at them. We have to do our job.

‘’On the (judgment) day, we will maintain our normal vigilance in conjunction with other security agencies. We can’t be doing our work and see somebody trying to unleash mayhem and we keep quiet. So, why are we outside (on patrol)?”

Meanwhile, the police authorities have beefed up security across several states in preparation for Wednesday’s judgment.

The Osun State Police Command assured that adequate security measures had been put in place to ensure the safety of lives and property.

The command spokesperson, Yemisi Opalola, assured “there won’t be a crisis in any part of the state as adequate security measures have been provided.’

“We don’t harbor any fear but we are prepared and we will ensure that lives and property are protected before, during, and after the judgment,” she noted.

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